Blog archive: All

  • 21st August 2009
    By
    Brian Whitaker
    With a presidential “election” coming up in Tunisia in October, you might think Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali’s position looks secure. The 72-year-old dictator has been in power since 1987 and the last time he sought a popular mandate, in 2004, he secured an incredible 94.48% of the votes. But...
  • 19th August 2009
    By
    Brian Whitaker
    The Columbia Journalism Review has triggered a fascinating debate about the ever-blurring lines between journalism and blogging. In an article, "Blogging in the Middle East: Not Necessarily Journalistic", Lawrence Pintak (American University in Cairo) and Yosri...
  • 19th August 2009
    By
    Brian Whitaker
    For what, hopefully, will be Hosni Mubarak’s last presidential visitto the United States, the ageing autocrat is allegedly paying US-based Egyptians to demonstrate their support for him. The going rate is said to be $100. Oh dear, the US is so expensive. Back in Egypt, I’m told, the usual...
  • 18th August 2009
    By
    Brian Whitaker
    More than two months after the Lebanese election, the saga of trying to form a government continues. In the latest twist, ex-general Michel Aoun is insisting on the re-appointment of his son-in-law, Jibran Bassil, as minister of telecommunications. Bassil failed to win a seat in the...
  • 18th August 2009
    By
    Brian Whitaker
    Major news organisations (CNN, Washington Post, BBC) missed a key point yesterday in their coverage of the Human Rights Watchreport on sexual orientation and gender in Iraq, reducing the issue to one of attacks on “gay” men.  As I explained here yesterday, and as HRW...
  • 18th August 2009
    By
    Brian Whitaker
    An American congressional delegation led by former Republican presidential candidate John McCain arrived in Yemen yesterday on a summer junket touring “post-war zones and forward operating bases” which also includes Libya, Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan, and … er … Iceland (!). Presumably...
  • 17th August 2009
    By
    Brian Whitaker
    Over the last seven years the Arab Human Development Reportshave explored most of the problems that hold back Arab societies and, on the whole, they have not minced their words. But there is one issue they have consistently shied away from discussing – the role of religion. This is not very...
  • 17th August 2009
    By
    Brian Whitaker
    Iraq is a dangerous place for many if not most of its citizens but a report issued today by Human Rights Watch looks at a spreading campaign of violence against one group in particular: men who are suspected of homosexual conduct or considered not “manly” enough. Murders are...
  • 16th August 2009
    By
    Brian Whitaker
    Two new (and differing) reports on the December/January  conflict in Gaza. The Operation in Gaza – Factual and Legal Aspects, from the Israeli foreign ministry: Israel deeply regrets the civilian losses that occurred during the Gaza operation. But Israel has both the...
  • 16th August 2009
    By
    Brian Whitaker
    The international dimension of Yemen’s Houthi rebellion came to the fore yesterday when Iranian media reported claims of Saudi military involvement. Yahya al-Houthi (a brother of the rebels’ dead leader) told Iran’s semi-official Fars News Agency that Saudi Arabia “has gone so far as...
  • 15th August 2009
    By
    Brian Whitaker
    Students of Arabic are usually amused to learn that the Arabic word for "grass" – the sort that grows in cracks between the paving stones – is hashish. The English word “cannabis”, meanwhile, comes from the Arabic qinnab al-hind - literally meaning “Indian hemp”. Some also claim the...
  • 15th August 2009
    By
    Brian Whitaker
    I’ll be presenting my new book, What’s Really Wrong with the Middle East at the Edinburgh Book Festival next Thursday (10:30am in the Scottish Power Studio Theatre). I have been asked several times whether the title alludes to Bernard Lewis’s book, What Went Wrong. Well...

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